Round 13 Review
Our confidence levels were low going into the round, and it turned out to be reasonably justified - Geelong pipped Port in a roller-coaster battle, Hawthorn pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season on Friday night, St Kilda stopped scoring after being 36 points ahead, GWS couldn't get over a one-win team, and Collingwood lifted for their departing coach to beat the ladder leader. Wow.
Quick review before we tackle Round 14 - the last of the bye rounds, thankfully.
Results this weekend show that there are many more factors than just talent and coaching in winning games - mental application, in-game injuries, desire for the physical, fitness, and just plain randomness to name a few...
A big week for potential suspensions. The Mackay case will be interesting - the reactions could be fierce no matter which way it goes.
Looks like no games in Victoria again in Round 14. No matter which way you look at it, it's incredibly disappointing. Spare a thought for the Victorian clubs spending so long on the road away from home, or the restrictions placed on them when heading interstate. Hopefully things turn quickly and we get a couple of months of footy in Victoria before an uncompromised finals series.
Anyone else over the coaching speculation?
Who Won The Round?
West Coast - a few candidates to choose from here (Geelong, Hawthorn, North Melbourne even) but the Eagles take the title. They are an absolute enigma and could easily be knocked out in the first week of finals or make a preliminary/grand final run. This was a huge test coming off some pretty indifferent form. They weren't super convincing but they do seem to have recaptured a harder edge - no better example of it than the return of Elliot Yeo.
Who Lost The Round?
St Kilda - Could've easily chosen the Suns, but that Saints loss has to be seen to be believed. It's the kind of defeat that crushes your confidence, giving up such a large lead and basically stopping to a walk in the second half.
Geelong 112 def Port Adelaide 91
Expected score: 93 v 80
This game had everything. A great spectacle for the return of Thursday night footy, with both sides having their chance to win a critical game in the context of the season.
We knew coming into this one that Port Adelaide was probably a rung below the other contenders. But as we said at the top of the review, there are a lot of other factors at play. Port were able to rise to the occasion at home, just didn't have the class at either end to finish the job.
Interesting drop in pressure for the second half - the Cats were marking everything which might have been a significant factor in that figure. Jack Henry and Tom Stewart down back, Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins up forward. Enough to get it done and have us wondering whether the Cats might be incredibly hard to beat in those close games come finals time...
Hawthorn 89 def Sydney 51
Expected score: 79 v 49
The classic blueprint for a stunning upset: the underdog brings the heat early, gains even more confidence by hitting the scoreboard in the first quarter and continues on their merry way. It happens so often we should be used to it by now and know what to look for! Keen observers would have seen the signs very early that the Hawks were up for the fight in this one.
Are the Swans battling a little? Definite signs of fatigue in this one, so they are well and truly ready for the bye. Hawthorn took away their uncontested mark game fairly well and sent it back the other way - only the second time they've won an inside 50 count this entire season.
Fremantle 76 def Gold Coast 49
Expected score: 70 v 67
We had no idea which way this would go in the Preview - the Dockers with injuries all over the field, the Suns without a proven track record of being able to deliver.
Gold Coast were incredibly disappointing in a Saturday afternoon game where they had the perfect opportunity to squash a vulnerable side away from home. Didn't happen.
We can't get too carried away with the Dockers performance given that expected score and an even Inside 50 count. They were just far more clean and efficient going forward than the Suns.
Adelaide 66 def St Kilda 60
Expected score: 81 v 61
One of the more extraordinary games of the season. The Saints burst out of the blocks and then played not to lose. The Crows withstood a high pressure game (helped by the rain and St Kilda parking most of their players in their back half) and absolutely pinched it.
The last passage of play will be dissected to within an inch of its life - Sloane's smother contrasted with Brad Crouch's attempt has gone unnoticed, as has the fact there wasn't a single Saints player on the line when Thilthorpe kicked a goal over his head that basically bounced on the line. Incredible.
North Melbourne 94 drew with GWS 94
Expected score: 94 v 79
Another game where we had the favourite winning comfortably and got it horribly wrong. But yet again, the near-upset came off the back of a superior pressure factor in the first quarter combined with hitting the scoreboard regularly to gain some much needed confidence.
The most alarming aspect for the Giants was conceding 94 points to North Melbourne - the Roos' highest score for the season. The behind goals footage might expose a few issues further up the ground. Wouldn't be surprised if there are a number of instances of midfielders simply not working hard enough defensively, or closing down on their opponent when the ball is turned over.
North were plucky for sure. Their +28 contested possession count was proof they came ready to give everything. Can we say the same about the Giants?
West Coast 85 def Richmond 83
Expected score: 73 v 92
We had a feeling this would be quite an uncontested, low pressure contest where execution became the key. Richmond were able to win the uncontested possession count, dominate inside 50s for the first three quarters, enjoy more shots at goal and yet fell short.
Decision making was the theme of Damien Hardwick's press conference, and rightly so. Clearly the Jason Castagna shot at goal late in the game - where there were a number of better options on offer - was probably the prime example. It's much easier from the couch but he would like his time again, that's for sure.
The Eagles are a different side with Elliot Yeo. Do their flag chances hinge on his fitness and output? Once again West Coast were saved by their accuracy and efficiency up forward late in the game. Richmond didn't convert nearly as well and paid the price.
Collingwood 80 def Melbourne 63
Expected score: 85 v 73
The Dees are an intriguing side - our theory was they would be tested by the better offences because they could post a high enough score to make it challenging for Melbourne to match. But after disposing of the Bulldogs and Lions it doesn't seem the case.
Instead, if teams can hold them defensively and scrap their way to a reasonable total up the other end, that's their ticket to win. The question marks will now be on their forward setup - only 1 goal between Fritsch, Pickett, McDonald and Weideman made things incredibly different, even though the majority of the midfielders managed to hit the scoreboard.
The Pies looked like their usual self - solid defensively (Maynard was incredible), slick at times through the midfield and questionable up forward if they aren't marking the ball. Thankfully for them, the seven goals between Cameron and Mihocek proved the difference.
A great learning spot for Melbourne as they head into the bye. The Pies could knock off a few contenders on the way home if they can eliminate some of the skill errors we saw yesterday and in the first half of the season.
No Thursday night footy this week (it was meant to be the West Coast v Richmond fixture, which was moved forward), so we will drop a Preview on Thursday afternoon and update through the weekend with any critical team changes. Only five games to go through in Round 14 before we get back to a full weekend of games.